Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variation in living organisms, viewed within a given habitat, ecosystem or in the world as a whole. The concept is usually applied to the species diversity, although the notion of genetic biodiversity is applied to the variation in genes within an individual species. While most people think of rainforests as loci of great biodiversity, biomes such as oceans and grasslands are the likely repositories for even greater variation. Retention of diverse biota is important, since intact ecosystems are thought to be essential for provision of ecosystem services to humans, including maintenance of a diverse foodbank, pollination, clean water, flood control, pest control, waste decomposition, biomass energy resources and climate stability. Biodiversity is presently critical since we live in the era of the Mass Holocene Extinction, a period of species loss caused by man, and unrivaled in rate of species loss. Although the number of total species numbers in the tens of millions, most have not yet even been described. The extinction of a species is almost always related to destruction of habitat or man-made pollution.

  • Coral reefs (collection) Featured Article Coral reefs (collection) Coral reefs (collection)

    Coral reefs are one of the most diverse, complex, aesthetically appealing and threatened ecosystems on earth. This collection will include information on a wide range of topics... More »

  • Crustacea Featured Article Crustacea Crustacea

    Crustaceans are invertebrates belonging to the phylum Arthropoda and include such familiar groups as barnacles, crabs, crayfish, lobster, water fleas and pill bugs. Crustaceans... More »

  • Ecoregions of Utah (EPA) Featured Article Ecoregions of Utah (EPA) Ecoregions of Utah (EPA)

    The Ecoregions of Utah comprise a diverse set of plant communities and geomorphic provinces. Ecoregions denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type,... More »

  • Habitat fragmentation Featured Article Habitat fragmentation Habitat fragmentation

    Habitat fragmentation involves alteration of habitat resulting in spatial separation of habitat units from a previous state of greater... More »

  • Virus Featured Article Virus Virus

    A virus is a microscopic organism that can replicate only inside the cells of a host organism. Most viruses are so tiny they are only observable with at least a conventional... More »

  • South China Sea Featured Article South China Sea South China Sea

      The South China Sea is a critical world trade route and a potential source of... More »

  • Devonian Featured Article Devonian Devonian

    The Devonian period is a geologic time interval within the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, aapproximately 417 million years before present (BP), to... More »

  • Spinner dolphin Featured Article Spinner dolphin Spinner dolphin

    The Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), a marine mammal in the family of oceanic dolphins,  gets its name from the spinning behavior it shows when it leaps out of... More »

  • Permian Featured Article Permian Permian

    The Permian period lasted from 290 to 248 million years ago and was the last period of the Paleozoic Era. The distinction between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic is made at the... More »

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Madagascar dry deciduous forests Last Updated on 2015-05-28 10:01:18 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Madagascar dry deciduous forests of western Madagascar are some of the world’s most species rich and most distinctive tropical dry forests. They are characterized by very high local plant and animal endemism at the species, genera and family levels. A significant fraction of these dry forests have been previously cleared, and the remaining forests are fragmented and critically threatened by uncontrolled burning and cuttining for charcoal production, grazing and agriculture. Since human settlement of this region during the Holocene, an estimated 97 percent of the island’s dry deciduous western forests have been destroyed, and those remaining are extremely localized and fragmented. This ecoregion also contains spectacular limestone karst formations, known as tsingy, and their associated forests,... More »
Madagascar mangroves Last Updated on 2015-05-27 11:30:24 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection Shielded from monsoon winds by the Central Highlands of Madagascar, Madagascar mangroves occupy a wide range of environmental and climatic conditions, and chiefly occur at the western coastline along the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean. Although the ecoregion’s species richness is low, it is noteworthy in supporting certain endemic tree species; for example, thre are only 163 vertebrate taxa found in the entire ecoregion. The Madagascar mangroves are within the Mangroves biome of the Afrotropic Realm. These mangroves also shelter highly diverse mollusk and crustacean communities, while capturing sediment that threatens coral reefs and seagrass beds. Dugongs, birds and sea turtles utilise mangroves, as do the native Malagasy people. Rice farming, shrimp aquaculture as well as stockpiling of... More »
Madagascar succulent woodlands Last Updated on 2015-05-22 14:24:18 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Madagascar succulent wodlands ecoregion comprises a mosaic of succulent xeric adapted plants and deciduous forests that represent critical habitats for many species of animals and plants restricted to the western region of Madagascar. Some of the remarkable fauna and flora found in this ecoregion include the giant jumping rat (Hypogeomys antimena), the flat-tailed tortoise (Pyxis planicauda), two species of baobabs and several species of primates. This succulent woodland is located in southwestern and central western Madagascar. Its southern limit is the start of the spiny thicket and northern limit the lower end of the dry deciduous forest. The southern portion of the succulent woodland ecoregion is inland from the spiny thicket and further north this ecoregion meets the sea around Belo-Tsiribihina.... More »
Zambezian Baikiaea woodlands Last Updated on 2015-05-16 21:25:29 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Zambezian Baikiaea woodlands lie along a zone where deep Kalahari sands occur in a wide belt along the Angolan-Namibian border across to Zimbabwe, supporting dry deciduous forest dominated by Baikiaea plurijuga. The hot, semi-arid climate and nutrient-poor soils mean that this region is not suitable for farming, and thus it has retained some of its natural vegetation. Over 160 mammal species are found here, including ungulates and large predators. However, human settlements occur along the Kunene, Kwando and Zambezi rivers, and the valuable Baikiaea plurijuga is sought after for the timber trade. The instability promoted in Angola by Soviet financed Cuban troops, and hostilities between Angola and Namibia in the Caprivi Strip have contributed to the degradation of this ecoregion. This ecoregion is a... More »
Zambezian halophytics Last Updated on 2015-05-15 15:26:27 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Zambezian halophytics ecoregion includes two spatially disjunctive units in Southern Africa: The Makgadikgadi Pan complex in Botswana and a smaller hypersaline unit in southern inland Mozambique. One of the largest saltpans in the world, the Makgadikgadi Pan complex in Botswana stretches out over 12,000 square kilometres. The ecoregion is classified within the Flooded Grasslands and Savanna biome. Surrounded by the semi-arid Kalahari savannas, the pans experience a harsh climate, hot with little rain, and are normally a vast, glaring expanse of salt-saturated clay. These pans are sustained by freshwater from the Nata River, and more infrequently, from input from the Okavango Alluvial Fan by way of the Boteti River. Saline- and drought-tolerant plant species generally line the pan perimeters, with grasslands... More »